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Michael Hannigan
Michael Hannigan, Internet Researcher
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To the Model Train Expert: If you have owned or seen and

Resolved Question:

To the Model Train Expert:

If you have owned or seen and used the KATO/KOBO,MTH 2-8-2 Mikado model train engine I have a number of questions to ask.
I either hope to purchase an engine or at least get dimensional information and operational information to re-make the uncoupler feature on the two KATO engines that I now have.
I do not know why the companies that I listed in my initial question refuse to talk about this product that they made about 20 years ago. I do know that KATO at the time would not support the coupler and did not commercially market it.
It appears to me that it was an attempt at a market experiment. The trouble with the attempt was that the cost for the special at the time was $450.00 This cut the interest in purchasing it and with no support or manufacturing neither the parts nor the customers for the product were developed.
I want to know how long the coupler lasts when used. How well it works, in all cases, especially in the "FLYING DROP".
I want to re-make the nitinol wire mechanism for my two KATO 2-8-2 Mikado engines.
The Atlas Chat Line where I first found out about this product was no help and would not talk to me. They have since taken off the photos and it is not open for new members.

Please help me find the answers to my questions.

Sincerely

Milton Chris Carris
Submitted: 1 year ago.
Category: General
Expert:  replied 1 year ago.
Hello, Milton. My name is Michael. I am familiar with the Kobo Custom DCC Coupler to which you refer. There have been many releases of the 2-8-2 Mikado, of course, but only one of which I am aware that was made with the DCC controlled coupler on the tender. That was one relased by Kato in 2008 called the "Kobo-Custom" The way it was constructed was fairly simple - two wires that could pivot at the point of the lectrical connection, and a spring that when heated, by a small current, contracts. The skinny wire pulls on the top of the coupler trip pin, causing the coupler to swing out. Similarly, the larger pin swings out, making contact with the trip pin on whatever it is you're trying to uncouple, causing the uncouplee's coupler to swing out in the opposite direction of the tender's coupler. which results in the coupler opening. It then closes as the spring cools. Here is a picture of what that looks like.
graphic
Default State - Cool

graphic
Current applied, spring contracts, coupler opens.

This particular model, with the DCC couplers, was built to order by a contractor in Japan. The good news is that this Kobo Customs label is still operating and will still make Custom Locomotives to order.
Kobo Customs

I've looked through the site and do not see this model currently available for custom order, but I also don't think it was originally on the US web site since the references I found to it were that it was created for Kobo Custom in Japan. The reason I mention this as good news is that the company still makes custom DCC models, so you do at least have a way to contact with the company that I am certain made the DCC couplers in the pictures above. As you mentioned, they have not, and may not, make it to mass market, but the company that made them to order still does. I don't know if they offer the DCC parts for the coupler separately, but you can at least inquire right at the source.

I will do some additional research to see if I can find a current source of locomotive or the coupler device.

Mike

Michael Hannigan, Internet Researcher
Category: General
Satisfied Customers: 8270
Experience: Extensive experience in research and problem solving.
Michael Hannigan and 104 other General Specialists are ready to help you
Expert:  Michael Hannigan replied 1 year ago.
Hi Ellen,

I'm just following up with you to see how things are going. Did I provide you with the correct information ? If you still need help, please don't hesitate to ask. If I have been helpful, I would sincerely XXXXX XXXXX moment of your time to provide a positive rating on my answer. It's an important part of the process since it's how we are compensated, but only if you think I have earned it. A favorable rating does not result in an additional charge. If you've done that by the time you receive this, THANK YOU!

If you have any other questions in the future, please don't hesitate to stop by and ask. You can request me specifically by going to my profile page and entering the question there.
[URL]http://www.justanswer.com/computer/expert-answers/[/URL]

You can also put my name in the question to make sure it gets routed to me. It's been a pleasure working with you.

Thank you!

Mike
Customer: replied 1 year ago.

To XXXXX XXXXXnigan:


 


I recognize the photos of the auto-uncoupler you posted. Those photos are at the site,"http://www.spookshow.net/kato282.html".


 


I also found on a web site, "http://www.wig-wag-trains.com/KatoPages/Locomotives/Kato_Mikado_Product-page.html


There is a listing that indicates Kato P/N:(NNN) NNN-NNNNKato 20th Anniversary USRA Heavy 2-8-2 Mikado was the only engine/tender set offered with a special DCC auto-uncoupler. The company's that actually built the coupler was KOBO/MTH.


 


I contacted Kato/USA this last week asking them how to order the DCC Auto-uncoupler for the Kato engine 2-8-2 Mikado.


 


The answer that I got back was:


 


Mr. Carris,


 


The DCC coupling Mikado was a very limited custom production from roughly 5 years ago. I believe less than 10 in total were made. It is not something we produce any more nor is installing it a service we can provide.


 


Regards, XXXXX XXXXX


 


 


-----Original Message----- From: Milton Chris Carris [mailtoXXX@XXXXXX.XXX] Sent: Thursday, May 23, 2013 2:04 PM To: XXXXX@XXXXXX.XXX Subject: Message from Kato Online Store


 


From: Milton Chris Carris Email: XXXXX@XXXXXX.XXX ------------------------------------------------------


 


I have been trying to find a P/N:(NNN) NNN-NNNNKato 20th Anniversary USRA HEAVY 2-8-2 Mikado with the KOBO SPECIAL DCC rear coupler.


 


I have not been successful in finding this engine/tender/coupler. I would like to up grade two later USRA Heavy 2-8-2 Mikado engines I own.


 


Do not have this special? How do I order the DCC couplers for replacement or retrofit? What is the cost for the parts or replacement service?


 


Please let me know.


 


Sincerely, XXXXX XXXXX Carris


 


This is the first time I have got an answer and acknowledgement they were once involved with this product. Being that it was only five years ago (2008) and sold into 2009 I am sure that they still hold the archived drawings. I also know that KATO/KOBO makes in HO some diesel model train engines with DCC auto-uncoupler sets with MTH.


 


Now if you have the contact to KOBO (to see if they will make it) I would like to get it because KATO will not build the coupler. As you can see KATO states that they only built less than ten units. They can't have very much information as to life span and reliability. I believe that KATO was not interested at the time and still is not interested in having to warranty this product. Also at the original cost for the special (includes the engine and tender, $450) most model train hobby people stayed with the original magnetic couplers plus engine and tender at $250.00 The DCC auto-uncoupler can't be worth $200.00. This includes the decoder, distribution board, wiring, soldering, nitinol wire, spring steel, manufacturing, insulation and mounting, original coupler, etc. Is it possible that KOBO/MTH sold this for R&D costs plus materials???? If it is true that only 10 units were built then maybe only a few people were involved making what amounts to are prototype units. For the cost of the DCC auto-uncoupler it was possible to get almost another engine/tender set plus $50.00 KATO/KOBO/MTH did not think the project value vs cost vs want vs need.


 


So now the second part of my question was and is how do I get my two KATO 2-8-2 engine/tenders fitted with a DCC auto-uncouplers?


 


The first expert John C and you self can see that the photos show a coil wire (Nitinol Wire) pulls two spring steel wires (top and bottom). You are correct in that the decoder sends a current to the Nitinol Wire and as it heats it contracts pulling the two spring wires, thus opening the "knuckle coupler". As the current is turned off, the Nitinol Wire, cools and relaxes back to it, "Loosened condition".


 


The two spring steel wires (top and bottom) also act as springs as you can see the there are two loops configured between the Nitinol Wire and the ends of the two spring wires that hook into holes on in the top and bottom parts of the coupler. This allows the coupler enough movement allowing the action to couple when two cars or tender/car are forced together.


 


All of that said the other part of this is how long does all of this, "TUNED MECHANISM", last in action?


 


How is the Nitinol Wire secured to the spring steel wire. Nitinol Wire does not solder. Was it laser welded or is it mechanically tied together, hooked?


 


What are the materials (spring steel?), connectors?, spring steel


supports?, (mounts), insulators (kapton tape?) and other materials? used?????


 


If KATO/KOBO/MTH are not going to offer this coupler I need to find out how to build it myself or find someone to make it. What about yourself and John C???? INTERESTED????


 


It is a miniature mechanism. When you know the scale (size) in which it needs to be manufactured it is very small. It is a matter of adding up the purchasable items, manufacturing, assembly, testing, shipping and handling.


 


Please get back to me about finding a company, person or John C and yourself working out a plan to make some DCC auto-uncouplers that are less than $200.00 each.


 


Sincerely,


 


Milton Chris Carris


 


 

Expert:  Michael Hannigan replied 1 year ago.
Milton, as I said originally, the made-to-order was built under the label "Kobo-Custom" by Kato. Kato and Kobo-Custom are the same company.
Kobo Customs

They still do "made-to-order" trains - but they no longer offer the USRA Heavy 2-8-2 Mikado, which as you mentioned, was sold in 2009 only. It was sold for a price of $450 for the engine and the tender together. And I suppose the coupler is worth whatever someone is willing to pay for it. I think you could put it together yourself for a few dollars, but I don't have specific information about how to fine tune it. This information from a old forum discussion gives us the best information as to it's origin:
KOBO Custom Shop - KATO USA : Precision Railroad Models (http://www.katousa.com/Kobo/E-NMikado.html)

The page is no longer there, but as you can see, it was sold from the same page that the other Kobo-Customs models are currently sold from.
As for soldering Nitinol to steel, you can do that by first removing the oxide layer, where you are going to solder... this can be done mechanically or chemically.
How to solder Nitinol

Interestingly, on the page you referenced above, I show the(NNN) NNN-NNNNas having magnetic couplers. Conspiracy???

Makes you wonder....

Mike
Customer: replied 1 year ago.

To XXXXX XXXXXnigan:


 


So far so good. Let us recap what we now know and what is the last parts of this research.


 


You have found that KATO/KOTO once made the DCC auto-uncoupler on the 20th Anniversary 2-8-2 Mikado engine between the dates of 2008 to 2009. Which I had verified by the message sent to me out of KATO/USA.


 


You and I also know that KATO/KOBO/MTH are not now and into the future unwilling to make more DCC uncouplers for this engine/tender set. Also in the message sent to me from KATO/USA.


 


Thank you for the information on how to get Nitinol Wire to solder.


 


As you have seen the photos of the couplers. How best would you get the rest of the information to build a mechanism as you see it? As you already know I plan to have it made or I will need to build it myself.


 


As of this time I have not found anyone to try building it. I am in the process of gathering up the materials.


 


Nitinol Wire: I have various sizes, must form 11 uniform coils, tough to


do consistently.


 


Spring steel wire: Easier to find but tougher to form without annealing and reheat treating. There are two lever coils in between the coupler and Nitinol Wire. One has black insulation on it to look like a steam pipe hose and the other is bare. I might be able to cold form the coils but here again this is very small. Full hard wire would be too brittle to form that tight and half hard wire might not hold the form over continuous use? Also I can't see clearly how the spring steel loops are mounted to the model train plastic truck. It may be taped on, but that seems far to unsecure. It might be mechanically fastened, (screw size), but there is very little material to do that and I do not see a screw or is it there? I also wondering if I am seeing some type of frame under the spring steel wires and clipped to the truck?


 


I think I see KAPTON tape insulation? That would be necessary to provide a slippery surface for the spring wire to slip on and prevent some heat from affecting the plastic of the coupler? It would also be needed to electrically isolate the two sides of the spring steel wires.


 


I see the electrical leads from the decoder and distribution circuit board connected to the spring steel wires. They provide the connection to each end of the Nitinol Wire to activate it? Is that what you see?


 


Now I can hook the decoder via the distribution board to split the out put from the decoder? It that how you see the operation of this DCC auto uncoupler?


 


Please help me with these questions and I will then authorize the payment.


 


Sincerely,


 


Milton Chris Carris


 


 


 

Expert:  replied 1 year ago.
Milton, I was just thinking that if/when you do manage to do this, it may be worthy of a patent, since I don't believe it was ever patented.

As you have seen the photos of the couplers. How best would you get the rest of the information to build a mechanism as you see it?

That is the million dollar question here, yes? I don't think there is additional information, but I think you're on the right "track" (pun was not originally intended, but quickly recognized).

Nitinol Wire: I have various sizes, must form 11 uniform coils, tough to

do consistently.

I think the smaller the gage the better. You could do this with relative ease by winding it around another wire, then sliding it off so they are exactly the same size - I know it's easier said than done, especially on that tiny scale, but it's the only way to get them consistent.


 


Spring steel wire: Easier to find but tougher to form without annealing and reheat treating. There are two lever coils in between the coupler and Nitinol Wire. One has black insulation on it to look like a steam pipe hose and the other is bare. I might be able to cold form the coils but here again this is very small. Full hard wire would be too brittle to form that tight and half hard wire might not hold the form over continuous use?

Starting out with a softer wire might be best and then heat and quench to galvanize then temper by heating to about 300 degrees f (purple) and cool slowly. This will make it less brittle. I don't have this down to a science, and often have to experiment depending on what I am trying to do. You can easily achieve these temperatures with a small butane torch.

 

Also I can't see clearly how the spring steel loops are mounted to the model train plastic truck. It may be taped on, but that seems far to unsecure. It might be mechanically fastened, (screw size), but there is very little material to do that and I do not see a screw or is it there? I also wondering if I am seeing some type of frame under the spring steel wires and clipped to the truck?

It looks to me like there is a small screw there being used to fasten it. In any case, I'm not sure they they have done this as cleanly as it could be done, so I would improvise here. I think a teflon washer could serve to insulate and provide the surface needed with a small cap nut or nut and lock washer on the other side. I know the small size will limit you somewhat, but you can get very small screws and washers - working with them will be a challenge.

 


I think I see KAPTON tape insulation? That would be necessary to provide a slippery surface for the spring wire to slip on and prevent some heat from affecting the plastic of the coupler? It would also be needed to electrically isolate the two sides of the spring steel wires.


 


I see the electrical leads from the decoder and distribution circuit board connected to the spring steel wires. They provide the connection to each end of the Nitinol Wire to activate it? Is that what you see?

Yes, and since it is a very simple mechanism - really just the electrical resistance heating the nitinol, I believe, there is no more to it than that.

 


Now I can hook the decoder via the distribution board to split the out put from the decoder? It that how you see the operation of this DCC auto uncoupler?

Yes. I've seen reference to the original operating on F3, but you could do that as you see fit.


 

Please help me with these questions and I will then authorize the payment.

I am very interested in knowing how this turns out. It's a very interesting project and I think that if you manage to do this, you've got something pretty hot on your hands.

One thing you could try doing if you have the time is creating a prototype on a larger scale just to experiment until you get what you need, and then scale everything down for the 8 that you need.

Mike
Michael Hannigan, Internet Researcher
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